exports expose inconsistent use of EU rules
Source of Article: http://www.freshplaza.com/news_detail.asp?id=35086
The voluntary testing of US almonds for a toxic substance has eased the path
for exports, a new report claims, but it also highlights the problem of EU
regulations being inconsistently adopted across member states.
The US Almond Board’s implementation of the Voluntary Aflatoxin Sampling Plan
(VASP) for shipments to the European Union has had a positive effect on US
exports of almonds to Italy,
according to a USDA Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) Global Agriculture
Information Network Report.
Italy imports on average about 20,000 tons of US almonds per year, valued at
about $100 million, due to strong demand from the local confectionery
industry. Aflatoxins are naturally formed by the
fungus Aspergillus flavus
on foodstuffs, particularly nuts and dried fruit, and have been shown to be
carcinogenic in animals. Aflatoxin B1, the most toxic, is classified as both
a human carcinogen and mutagenic.
The VASP provides the US
almond industry with a sampling plan for aflatoxin
that has an equivalent sensitivity to that currently being used in the EU.
Since its introduction in September 2007, the FAS report said it has sharply
reduced the number of rejections due to aflatoxin.
And only about five percent of almond shipments from the US are now
tested, whereas without a VASP certificate, almonds are subject to 100
percent mandatory testing of Californian almonds.
However the report said that the issue has also demonstrated how
“all-too-often trade problems arise when EU Member States inconsistently
adopt and implement EU regulations”.
It said: “In spite of the generally smooth implementation of the VASP system,
some problems have cropped up in recent months due to different methodologies
implemented by the field import health authorities in Italy.”
In April 2008, one shipment of US almonds reportedly tested positive for aflatoxin by the Naples
port health authorities, which trigged a rapid alert notification. Then the
Italian Ministry of Health independently decided to extend to food products
of vegetable origin the provisions originally fixed for animal products by
This rule states that the next ten consecutive consignments from any rejected
shipper must then be inspected by the port of entry authorities. The report
said: “Apparently no other EU Member State applies this rigorous standard.”
It added: “It is not entirely clear that Italian ports have adequate
facilities to test a larger number of shipments in an expeditious manner.” It
said that Italian ports do not implement the regulations consistently, so
that an affected shipper’s next ten consecutive shipments may not be all
Almonds are the sixth largest US
food export. In the domestic California
is the main supplying region but nearly two-thirds of production is exported
to more than 90 countries abroad. The California
almond crop is valued annually at over $1bn.